With a month of football under our belt, Peyton’s on pace for 5,880 regular season passing yards. Eli and Big Ben are both about to lose out on Hall-of-Fame shrines. And Tim Tebow has cast a swamp curse on Blaine Gabbert and Jacksonville’s hapless franchise. How does ‘London Jaguars’ look and sound to you? I smell the easiest sponsorship money the NFL has ever made #BigPimpin #InAnFTypeV8
Think of our Contender Rankings as the half-breed love-child of traditional “Power Rankings” and the NFL playoff format: from Best to Worst, we rank the 8 divisional leaders and our two favorite wild card teams from each conference. Our Top 12 rankings give you all the fun of a college poll AND a meaningful outlook on the NFL playoff picture!
Top 4: Bye-week bound Divisional Leaders
1. Denver Broncos. (4-0). The Broncos are best in the AFC West. They could beat the Chiefs three times this season (if necessary). Just ask the Eagles who kicked Chip Kelly’s ass harder these past two weeks: Andy Reid or Peyton Manning?
2. Seattle Seahawks. (4-0). The Seahawks looked vulnerable for the first 52 minutes of this game. But a late game collapse by Houston let Seattle back in the game. Let’s see how they fare against the Colts’ stingy defense in Week 5: Indy gave up fewer than 13 points/game in September.
3. New Orleans Saints. (4-0). Monday night matchup on December 2: NO at SEA. We will see if Seattle can hang with the Saints’ high-octane offense late in the season.
4. New England Patriots. (4-0). Despite Tom Brady looking like Tony Romo on a 4th quarter fumble, the Patriots earned a tough road win this week against Atlanta. BTW LaGarrette Blunt– excuse me, Blount– could be the best ball carrier to play behind Brady since Corey Dillon took the rock for 1600+ yards in 2004. Yes, Blount could be the difference maker on a cold January night in Denver.
Best of the Rest: NFL Contender Rankings 5-12
5. Kansas City Chiefs. (4-0). The Chiefs might not even beat the Redskins in December. Don’t expect this team to finish better than 11-5.
6. Detroit Lions. (3-1). If the Lions can win at Green Bay this week, Detroit will gain a huge advantage in the NFC North. Bears and Packers fans needn’t worry though– the Lions are perfectly capable of blowing it (as usual). That said, we still think this Detroit team is different: they’re one of the few NFC teams with enough talent to match the Saints’ offense, and/or to outflank the Seahawks’ defense.
7. Indianapolis Colts. (3-1). The Colts took clear lead of the AFC South this week, primarily because of a regrettable injury to Titans’ QB Jake Locker (out 4-6 weeks, according to ESPN). While Tennessee took second place in the AFC South, Houston plunged to third in the division, thanks to Matt Schaub throwing another interception returned for a touchdown– his third such negative scoring drive in September. It wasn’t all bad in Houston last week– Texans’ fans can take solace in the resurgence of RB Arian Foster during the loss to Seattle. Foster’s 171 yards from scrimmage put Houston’s starting RB back on the radar as one of the top dual threats in the NFL.
8. Chicago Bears. (3-1). Chicago has already circled November 10 on the calendar: their rematch with Detroit in Week 10 is a MUST-WIN. You know, it’s a must-win game if Chicago wants to control its own destiny in the event of a two-way tie atop the NFC North… jk! The NFC sucks, so both the Bears and Lions seem destined for Wild Card Sunday. Let’s see if Green Bay (or even Minnesota) can snatch that second Wild Card spot in the NFC.
9. Miami Dolphins. (3-1). Mike Sherman isn’t your father’s Bill Callahan. But he’s pretty close. We won’t pay much attention to this team unless it beats New England during the regular season.
10. Carolina Panthers. (1-2). The last Wild Card spot in the NFC is very much up for grabs. We didn’t find the 49ers’ victory over a woeful Rams’ team convincing enough to move San Fran ahead of Carolina, who were on bye last week. We’re already looking to the November 10 matchup at Candlestick Park between the Panthers and the 49ers: this game will greatly impact the NFC Wild Card race.
11. Baltimore Ravens. (2-2). This week’s headline: Rookie QB defeats reigning Super Bowl MVP. E.J. Manuel outplayed Joe Cool in Buffalo on Sunday, while the Ravens’ play-callers inexplicably forgot to run the ball for their first 25 offensive plays in the second half. Does anyone in Baltimore remember how to run the playaction pass? On a related note, Norv Turner just turned a third string QB into someone capable of scoring against Marvin Lewis’ defense. Don’t be shocked if Cleveland seizes first place in the division next week.
12. Dallas Cowboys. (2-2). Football’s worst division is only gonna get worse in Week 5. Peyton Manning expects to stomp Monte Kiffin’s son in the testicles, just like Mike Tyson once did. Did I say Tyson? I meant Arizona State.